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Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Belgium’s government needs to unify to prevent civil war

In a matter of years, the country of Belgium may no longer exist. Yes, the country quintessentially known for its tasty beer, luscious chocolate and love for waffles may disband before long. The country that is the hub for both the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization may soon dichotomize right before your eyes. And, yes, the country that is home to the beautiful Ardennes and Audrey Hepburn may break at its seam 20 miles south of Brussels, its capital.Belgium

Just over 120 days after the general election on July 10, Belgians still have yet to form a government. The 2007 government formation period is now the second longest in history, only trailing that of Wilfred Martens’ back in 1987 when it took him 148 days. The differences between Martens’ social experiment then and the one taking place now are but measly in comparison with prior reforms: The demarcation of the Brussels-Capital Region and a few fruitless tweaks here and there to community matters between the Flemish and French, to name a few. The most important difference, however, is not one that can be measured by a political stick but one that can be measured with a watch.

Twenty years and two new governments later we find ourselves where we stand now. The Belgian people are growing weary of the efficacy of their political process. Frankly, governments, especially in first-world countries such as Belgium, should not be collapsing every 10 years. People, no matter how quarrelsome they may be, should not be at each others’ throats because of their own xenophobia. And a king should not be so powerless that he cannot restore order in his own country.

This is the case with Belgium. King Albert II has been that king. He only has the power to appoint ministers and check off whatever laws are churned and spit out of the Parliament. He has appointed four politicians, one after another, in hopes that each could solve this crisis. So far, not a single one has.

With respect to Belgium’s xenophobia, it is nothing new. It is the cause of all six government reforms in the past 40 years and, over time, has intensified. Whereas in the first reform “separatists” only called to be recognized through the establishment of regions and considered the idea of actually having their own country to govern a silly pipe-dream, nowadays separatists like the Flemish nationalist, extreme-right Vlaams Belang party believe this once-fantasy can become a feasible reality.

Some would argue that if Belgium’s intra-country struggles persist, why not let them just go their own way if that’s what they really want? The problem is not, per se, letting Belgium racially divide itself but letting other countries stomaching separatist movements follow suit. Moreover, Belgium, unlike Iraq and its Sunni, Shiite, Kurd trichotomy, was not an arbitrarily defined country. Like the United States Revolution, the Belgian Revolution sought to establish the Kingdom of Belgium as a neutral country separate from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

If Belgium divides into two countries, Wallonia (French) and Flanders (Dutch), it will create a domino effect throughout Europe. In Spain, the terrorist coup that has been detonating at random since 1959, ETA, in tandem with strong Basque nationalism could easily remove itself provided its entreaty came at an opportune time: the division of Belgium. In its wake, Catalonian nationalism, also in Spain, could fluidly prevail. In Italy, the Lega Nord, a political party focused on complete Lombard autonomy, has been on a roll since its inception in 1991 reaching a peak year in 1996 when it attained nearly 11 percent of the national vote (bearing in mind that Italy has nine national political parties which split the vote).

Finally, in Northern Ireland cessation feelings still linger from the pinnacle years of the Irish Republican Army. Though the Belfast Agreement, essentially ending the IRA’s road to Northern Irish independence from the United Kingdom, has come and gone, at thousands strong, it could easily resurface as a political force.

We must ensure that Belgium persists as a unified country and resolve to aid it in construction of its government. The implications of division are far too hazardous to the health of Europe as a whole. But if the sixth government reform is to be squandered at the feet of zealous nationalism and Flemish and Walloons alike decide to rule their own kingdoms, so be it. The result when Belgium takes Spain, Italy and Northern Ireland, among others, with it is but one: civil war. And as far as the yummy waffles, tasty beer and delicious chocolate go, you can pretty much give them up for good.

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  • T

    Tom Van CalsterNov 6, 2007 at 3:46 am

    “Like the United States Revolution, the Belgian Revolution sought to establish the Kingdom of Belgium as a neutral country separate from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.”

    Try to inform yourself before writing an article about the situation in Belgium please.

    It wasn’t a “Belgian Revolution”, it was a revolution of the french upper class citizens, most of the dutch speaking people were quite fond of the dutch rulers at the time.

    Reply
  • S

    S HuylebekeOct 18, 2007 at 2:29 am

    Sir,

    If the phrase “to aid it in construction of its government” means outside financing the dysfunctional Walloon South of the country, then by all means go ahead.

    On the other hand, if you are not willing to put up, then please shut up.

    Reply